August 25, 2010

system76 Pangolin Performance part one : Going mobile

You heard that right, I officially went mobile this week. I travel more than before, therefore I am away from my desktop (hence my files) more often. It was a tough decision, but I decided to shop for a laptop.

Shopping the thing

My brother was delighted when he heard I was considering buying a laptop - I was more afraid of the task more than anything else. I always considered laptops to be a problem. First of all, I'm a clumsy guy. I drop stuff. I sometimes put stuff in places I forget.  And a laptop, well, would be one more object (and a pricey one) to protect from my clumsiness. Finally, there's a heck of a lot of brands, lines, models...  I haven't quite kept track through time of which manufacturer is good or which one I must avoid. However, I think (maybe it's wrong to think so, correct me if it's the case) that laptops that cost around 500$ (not netbooks) tend to be... maybe... cheap. In a pejorative way. As I've been told before, "Stay away from Satellites. They're good to send into orbit." So basically, I tried to stay above the 700$ bar.

Fortunately, the laptop I searched for needed to satisfy one condition, narrowing down the choice a lot : it had to come with Linux. And if the manufacturer could be one that builds laptops specifically for it, so much the better.

For the sake of comparison, me and my trustworthy brother looked at HP, Dell and even Apple for more "standard" laptops (my brother has an HP one with openSUSE on it, works like a charm).

We made a stop at ZaReason to see its line of Linux notebooks, but nothing really appealed me. While the prices were interesting, the configurations available were not quite what I wanted. I already had an eye on system76 laptops. I knew system76 for the Ubuntu stickers I ordered from them a couple of years ago for my desktop (talk about far fetched!)

After a couple of review reading, price comparison I'll spare (I don't even remember the details anyway) and a couple of evenings spent drooling on online showcases, I opted for the system76 Pangolin Performance.

Buying the thing

You may now at this point say "Wow wait, what are the specs"? I feel lazy tonight, so I give you this wonderful link leading to the Pangolin Performance product page. For the others, in a nutshell: feature packed, reasonable price. It sports a decent screen resolution (not that whatever x 768 nonsense), a DVD burner, Bluetooth, USB ports, HDMI and VGA out, a fine CPU and enough RAM to run pretty much any GNU/Linux distro you want. And it came with Ubuntu.

The only thing I changed from the standard configuration was the warranty. I went overkill and opted for the 3 years peace of mind package. It's the first time in my life I opt for an extended warranty, so it was quite a big step.

First of all, I'll mention this about system76's Web site : I really liked it. Straightforward, fast, efficient and "to-the-point". Go to the laptops section, select your model, configure it using simple radio buttons on the spec page, order and voilà. No fuss, no flash, no frustration. I wish more Web sites were like that.

As for the cart/checkout process, I had a little problem with my credit card not working because of some weird address format issue or something like that. I kind of expected the process to be  a bit more complicated since I live in Canada. However, an email and a call to system76 and the order was back on track.

About 10 days later, I was in possession of the big brown box containing the mystical laptop. Will it be good? Will it work? Will Captain Kirk defeat Khan? You'll find out in system76 Pangolin Performance part two!

Click Here!